Q: I understand the industry we are entering is far from a new concept, what are the top ways to quickly gain recognition as being innovative in everything your company does? How can a new start up find ways to quickly stand out, especially considering my partner and I are viewed as inexperienced? We are both young, 23 & 24, respectively, so we need to gain an edge in being viewed as highly innovative and progressive, to offset our lack of experience. I am not sure at what age you began working towards becoming successful as an entrepreneur, but how did you position yourself as a company to fight those already in the industry?
A: I started my business in 1999. I was 25 years old, so about the same age you are. I had partners, and they were about the same age I was, maybe a year or two younger. On top of this, we were based in Provo, Utah, a college town, and that didn’t help our credibility. When it comes to competition, you’ve got the old three staples; faster, better, cheaper. We took advantage of all three by turning our weaknesses into strengths. Here’s how.
1. Faster. “We may not be big like our competitors, but because we’re small we can be more responsive to your needs.”
2. Better. “We’re young and cutting edge, not like those old guys who are stuck in their ways.”
3. Cheaper. “Those big guys are super expensive. We do great work, and we’re not cheap, but compared to our competitors we’re a bargain. We have to be, because we’re just stating out. In a year or two we hope to be charging as much as our competitors.”
Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War, says if you’re small you should appear big, and if you’re big you should appear small. I hadn’t read that book back then, but we’ve always done a good job of this. We’ve never been a huge company, so we’ve always worked to appear larger than we are, and we’ve largely succeeded. We did this by having a good website, doing good work that we could show off that made us look reputable, by having professional processes in place, having good documents, good business cards, etc. We focused more on the inexpensive, little things. We used to have a nice office, as well, but that turned out to be a waste of money for us. Sure, it made us look big, but we got rid of it in 2007 and we haven’t missed it since, although now we’re starting to so you might see us in an office soon.
But one thing matters more than anything else–self confidence. If you don’t have it, nobody will trust you. If you do have it, people will ignore everything else. If you want to learn more about self confidence, read Brian Tracy’s book The Power of Self-Confidence.
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